Inspector general finds that sponsoring GOP women's event wasn't an ethical violation
The Hoosier Lottery inappropriately sponsored a luncheon for Republican women during the tenure of its former director, but neither that nor other actions rose to the level of ethics violations, the state's inspector general said.
The findings essentially cleared former lottery Director Esther Schneider of allegations of cronyism, improper expenditures and other charges raised in an anonymous letter sent to Republican and Democratic lawmakers last year.
The report also endorsed a state audit of lottery operations that found nothing amiss with those operations during a 12-month period of Schneider's tenure that ended July 1, 2006. She resigned and left office in January.
The report, filed Wednesday by Inspector General David Thomas, recommended the lottery refrain from politically tinged sponsorships and make other minor changes in its procedures.
Indiana Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker blasted Thomas' report as a "whitewash" and suggested the inspector general himself was engaged in cronyism.
Schneider, who like Thomas was appointed by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, spent $10,000 in lottery money to sponsor a luncheon program named for Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, whose mission is "to increase the number and influence of Hoosier Republican women in elected and appointed governmental and political positions at the local, state and federal levels." The lottery also paid $130 for employees to attend the lunch.
"While this expenditure is challenged as inappropriate by the OIG (Office of Inspector General), it does not rise to the level of an ethics violation," Thomas wrote, because it did not support a candidate in a pending election.
Lugar at the time was seeking re-election and won a sixth term in November.
Parker said the report made Thomas' office "irrelevant," in part because it was playing politics by favoring Republicans and treating Democrats more harshly.
"This a complete joke of a report, and Dave Thomas should be ashamed of himself," Parker said.
Parker noted that Thomas last year criticized former highway Commissioner J. Bryan Nicol for hosting a 2003 political fundraiser at his home for Democratic Mayor Bart Peterson of Indianapolis that was attended by representatives of design firms with interests before Nicol's agency. The state ethics commission fined Nicol $5,000.
"As the saying goes, it's not what you know, it's who you know," Parker said.
Thomas said he interpreted the ethics rules in Schneider's case no differently than in the past. He also said investigations by his office have resulted in more than 40 criminal arrests.
Lottery spokesman Andrew Reed said the agency has instituted new policies and procedures under Director Kathryn Densborn, who was appointed by Daniels in December.
"We do not fund any politically tied organization, Republican or Democrat," Reed said.